Abuse and Bullying In our Religion. Part 1

I will be addressing abuse including Sexual Abuse within our community in a three part blog. Here is Part 1:

The other day, Oludare,  Esteemed Olorisha of Ogun, Musician and Teacher, made a statement about an Olorisha who had abused him in the context of a tambor that he had attended as drummer. Consequentially it brought up many conversations, outrage and responses and other people standing up and saying it had happened to them too.

This is my take on abuse in our community.

  1. As someone that has been a Survivor of Abuse, not only Violent Rape, but Covert, insidious, touching without consent, I can honestly say that I was brought up in an age where a lot of this was normalised. It also happened so often from school days, that I became slightly desensitised to the latter type of abuse, although the overt attacks, left me with severe depression, which I now manage quite successful, and PTSD which I have to this day.  Out of the three  times I was violently attacked, I only reported it once to the Police. Otherwise, I just tried to bury what had happened and carry on regardless. The covert abuse was incredibly common.    Whilst at school, as a young teenager,  it would happen quite openly, whilst witnessed  by boys and girls alike,  no one said a thing. Those that it happened to would keep silent also. These were the 70’s. Abuse was rife, and it included fellow contemporaries in addition to inappropriate activity by teachers.   Through shame, through fear, through the inability to understand what is normal and what is not, we all kept silent.  We are in different times now, and I applaud those that are starting to speak up because the cycle needs to be broken. In general society, the “Me Too” campaign helped create an environment that allowed individuals to speak out about what they had faced.  Finally, some predators/abusers in powerful positions have been found guilty of the crimes that so many people knew about yet could not speak out about.

We also need to believe and support and call out people as a community within our community,  but this has not happened. We need to create a non- judgemental environment where people are not afraid to speak out, whether it is the survivor of what has happened or those who did not feel comfortable about speaking out.  We all know people that have spoken out on behalf of “victims” and have been threatened. We need to break this silence and allow people now to speak their truth without judgement.  The cycle needs to be broken. We need to see the bigger picture.

  1. Our community reflects society. It is no different. My overall experience as a musician has taught me that the best musicians and artists can be arseholes! The point I am trying to make is that there are predators, secrets and lies within all communities.  Within our Orisha community, just because you have a crown on your head, does not mean that you are not human, or above the law. We all know that within all religions there are people that use their power to abuse others. THIS IS ALL ABOUT POWER.  There are ( like in society) those that hold titles which makes them think they are immune to being investigated. They rely on people’s silence.  In this community also, there is a tendency to say “Leave it up to the Orisha”. Let us stop using the Orisha for our own passivity and take control and do the right thing. Do you know someone who  is a predator? Don’t work at their Ocha ceremonies.  Don’t keep silent, Do not play a drum at their Iles. Support those that speak out. Believe those that speak out.
  2. The problem and issue with this religion, also, is that there is no centralised board where you can go to complain. So what do you do? Certainly, in terms of your own Ile, you listen to Godchildren who let you know if they do not feel safe about someone and you support those that speak out. Naming and shaming is a difficult thing to do when there is no support, but if people support each other, it should be more possible to create a healthier community. Even as far as reporting them to the authorities if there is the issue of repeated abuse. We need to unite as a community and we need to educate and teach boundaries. Why are we so ready to police minor issues and then be silent on issues of abuse. Boundaries and what is acceptable are flexible. People that have suffered continued abuse will find it difficult to draw the line. I certainly needed to learn myself what was normal and acceptable behaviour and what was not. I needed to understand also that I could say no!
  3. The Issue of Consent. We are taught as young children, especially girls, to kiss and hug strangers. We are sometimes told it is rude not to. If a child is adamant that they do not want to kiss someone or hug someone BELIEVE THEM AND ALLOW THEM TO REFUSE.  We need to teach what is appropriate and what is not. Consent and ownership of your own body and the importance of speaking out if something happens.

My support goes out to those people in the UK that have faced abuse from people who are masquerading as religious spiritual people within the tradition. Those that have abused their partners, used their power as Olorishas and Babalawos to abuse those that they serve. If anyone is out there who has had adverse experiences, I am always here to listen.

Art By Celine Siani Djiakoua

 

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